Predictions 2023: The year ahead for experiences – by Lightblue’s Craig Borthwick

Marketers will continue to embrace new technology as they continue the road back from Covid. But make sure you put the customer first, writes Lightblue's Craig Borthwick

By Craig Borthwick, partner, Lightblue

In 2022, the Middle East really thrived, especially in large-scale experiences, including the second half of Dubai Expo 2020, the unmissable – whichever side of the fence you sit on – FIFA World Cup in Qatar and MDLBeast Soundstorm in Riyadh, to name just a few. There has undoubtedly been a lot to be proud of and the legacies of these events will no doubt be celebrated for some time. A perfect tonic for any pain amounting from the past two years of pandemic.

Do you want to learn how brands are interacting with their changing audience in the region this Ramadan? Watch business leaders from brands and agencies come together and discuss how they engage with audiences and the evolving advertising landscape during Ramadan. Click here to book your seat! 


Post-Covid, we’ve been desperate to get back out, come together with our communities and enjoy live experiences once again. However, there has been a tendency to throw caution to the wind and rush to integrate in any way possible, just to be there, to be seen or for the sake of FOMO. The market is noisy, in many parts passive, and many engagements haven’t lived up to their promise. 

While the region is reasonably sheltered, in a year forecast for global recession, we are compelled to work smarter. As we move into 2023, here are four considerations for experiential success.   

1. The value paradigm

Brands and agencies will re-assess how we collectively approach and add value to our audiences within the value spectrum. We need to get back to defining the ‘why’ and creating truly valuable and culture-defining moments. The magic of experiential is in storytelling and more goosebumps are required. 

Cue a year of value refinement, proper audience alignment and not necessarily bigger but certainly fewer and better high-quality experiences.

2. The ownership economy

In 2023, we will fully embrace the ‘ownership economy’. Spearheaded by the decentralisation of the digital world, it represents the evolving mindset and expectations of audiences and descends into the physical realm. 

For a long time, there’s been talk of ‘shifting the balance’ and ‘hyper-personalisation’, but that’s no longer enough. Emerging audiences demand (and deserve) ownership of their content, creations and data. 

It’s potentially an uncomfortable move, but for marketers finding valuable ways to enable ownership will be a real key to success. Check out Swoosh.Nike for a credible glimpse into what 2023 holds in store.

3. Web 3.0 evolution

After a rollercoaster year in the crypto, NFT and metaverse worlds, the hype bubble well and truly burst, but web 3.0 technologies are not going anywhere. On their return, with their polished arsenal, it’s really going to redefine the way we experience the internet and our daily lives. 

The truth is the expectation of the vision and the reality of where the tech is are miles apart. In 2023, we will see rapid experimentation with virtual worlds so it’s wise not to discount them – but ensure you have a solid rationale for engaging in them to keep your finger on the metaverse pulse.

In the year ahead, web 3.0 technology will continue to blur the lines between the physical, digital and augmented worlds with valuable, gamified and immersive moments. You will hear the words ‘utility’ and ‘value’ in every web 3.0 conversation – I promise you that. This is a world that emerging audiences really want, but they will call you out if you make them pawns in pursuit of being pioneering in the industry.

AR technology is improving immensely with an ability to create more powerful and believable experiences. For me, this is one of the big drivers next year in bridging the gap to further web 3.0 adoption with a low-barrier, high-value complementary approach. 

Elsewhere a lot of work is being done in the NFT space, driven by the promise of utility, which will continue into 2023. In terms of value security, there’s a recent release of NFTs pegged to the price of real-world gold, and look out for POAPs (proof-of-attendance protocols), offering digital exclusives in physical environments. 

Finally, look out for further usage and integration of AI, which is quite frankly mind-blowing and taking over the creative and arts space at speed. 

4. Legitimate sustainability and values

In 2023, there will be a real spotlight on the impact our businesses and executions have on employees, communities, customers and the environment. It’s time to get our values in check.

When it comes to sustainability, the truth is, it’s everyone’s business. We’ve all been in the room for the BS conversations of ‘try and be sustainable’ or ‘think sustainably’. In 2023, trying and thinking aren’t enough and will be demanded as a pillar of all experiences. 

Make 2023 the year to become a force for good.